How To Stoke the Fire: More from Rosario Ferré

This summer self made a stab at re-reading the late Rosario Ferré’s story collection The Youngest Doll. She remembers being stunned by the title story, the first time she read it. The intervening years have not changed her response to the story, not one bit. She urges everyone interested in feminist literature/island literature/Puerto Rican literature or just plain literature to read it.

In addition, self has been slowly re-reading Ferré’s essay on her writing process, The Writer’s Kitchen. The essay was published decades ago, in the Journal of Feminist Studies, but every time self re-reads it, the words are as fresh as the first time.

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HOW TO STOKE A FIRE

I would now like to speak a bit about that mysterious combustible element that feeds all literature — imagination. This topic interests me because I often discover, among the general public, a curious skepticism toward the existence of the imagination and because I find that both laypeople and professionals in the literary community tend to overemphasize the biographical details of authors’ lives. One of the questions most often asked of me, by strangers as well as friends, is how I was able to write about Isabel la Negra, a famous whore of Ponce, my hometown, without ever having met her. The question always surprises me because it bespeaks a fairly generalized difficulty in establishing boundaries between imagined reality and lived reality, or perhaps the difficulty lies only in understanding the intrinsic nature of literature. It would never have occurred to me to ask Mary Shelley, for example,  if on her walks along the bucolic paths surrounding Lake Geneva, she had ever run into a living-dead monster about ten feet tall.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Breaking Down Self’s 2019 Reading List

Most of Self’s favorite reads so far 2019 were novels (six out of 10).

Three of her favorite reads of 2019 were memoirs written by doctors.

One of her favorite reads of 2019 was a book about the environment.

Five of her six favorite novels were written by women.

This year she attended the Fowey Festival of the Arts (in honor of Daphne du Maurier) and during the festival, she bought a copy of Jane Austen‘s Northanger Abbey from Bookends of Fowey. She loved loved loved it.

None of the books she read in January and April ended up making much of an impression.

One of her six favorite novels has been optioned for the movies by Lawrence Kasdan.

One of her six favorite novels won a prize.

One of her six favorite novels is a finalist for a Kirkus Prize.

Her 2019 Goodreads Reading Challenge was to read 34 books.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Reading on the Fourth of July, 2019

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HOME: 4 July 2019

Today self finished Stephen Westaby’s Open Heart and began a re-read of the Rosario Ferré collection The Youngest Doll (University of Nebraska Press, 1991). Some pieces are memoir, some are nonfiction, some are magical realist.

  • Being a writer . . . one has to learn to live by letting go, by renouncing the reaching of this or that shore, to let oneself become the meeting place of both . . . In a way, all writing is a translation, a struggle to interpret the meaning of life, and in this sense the translator can be said to be a shaman, a person said to be deciphering conflicting human texts, searching for the final unity of meaning in speech.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Moving Towards a Climax: Northanger Abbey, p. 172

The Tilney family, Catherine Morland in tow, is on its way to Northanger Abbey from Bath, “a journey of thirty miles” with four horses going at a “sober pace.”

For Catherine, the “bustle of going was not pleasant . . . The clock struck ten while the trunks were carrying down . . .”

The means of conveyance is a chaise-and-four, “a heavy and troublesome business.”

(How self adores all these details about traveling, back in the day!)

At the halfway point of the journey, General Tilney urges Catherine to move to Henry Tilney’s curricle, which follows behind. Catherine is at first shocked at the impropriety but is happy to acquiesce because “to be driven by” Henry, “next to being dancing with him, was certainly the greatest happiness in the world.”

Stay tuned.

 

Dear, Sweet Catherine!

A woman especially, if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.

Northanger Abbey, p. 122

Self loves this book. Loves, loves, loves it.

She hardly remembers anything from the first time she read it, it’s a good thing she decided to read it again. Catherine’s innocence, her enthusiasm for the “horrible” — who would have expected such an entertaining tale to be spun from this?

Catherine confides in her new BFF Eleanor Tilney that she is very much looking forward to the arrival of “something very shocking indeed” (p. 123) and that “it is more horrible than anything we have met with yet . . . it is to be uncommonly dreadful. I shall expect murder and everything of the kind.” (p. 124)

Eleanor assumes that Catherine is talking about a “riot.”

Eleanor: Have the goodness to satisfy me as to this dreadful riot.

Catherine: Riot — What riot?

Henry hastens to explain: “Miss Morland has been talking of nothing more dreadful than a new publication which is shortly to come out . . .”

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Catherine Morland: Northanger Abbey, p. 26

With more than usual eagerness did Catherine hasten to the Pump-room the next day, secure within herself of seeing Mr. Tilney there before the morning were over, and ready to meet him with a smile: — but no smile was demanded — Mr. Tilney did not appear.

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Jane Austen Centre, Bath, May 2017

Too. Funny.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

 

Northanger Abbey, p. 24

This is a 2nd reading, and great is her reward, as she really lingers over the story now, and sometimes even bursts into laughter in public, so much so that, this afternoon, an American woman in a party of four just had to break briefly from her companions and ask self what it was she was reading that made her laugh so much. When self showed her the book cover, she seemed a little taken aback.

Catherine Morland and Henry Tilney have just met. Tilney is a clergyman. Not as exciting as being a Captain in HRM’s navy, but Tilney is way more flirty thatn Captain Wentworth, and Catherine is much livelier than Anne Elliot (perhaps because she is 18 and not a spinster of 27!) therefore twice as much fun.

They danced again; and, when the assembly closed, parted, on the lady’s side at least, with a strong inclination for continuing the acquaintance. Whether she thought of him so much, while she drank her warm wine and water, and prepared herself for bed, as to dream of him when there, cannot be ascertained; but I hope it was no more than in a slight slumber, or a morning doze at most; for if it be true, as a celebrated writer has maintained, that no young lady can be justified in falling in love before the gentleman’s love is declared, it must be very improper that a young lady should dream of a gentleman before the gentleman is first known to have dreamt of her.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

True Russian Spirit: ANNA KARENINA, p. 326

This is a Vronsky chapter. (Self has been skipping all the Anna chapters; she can’t believe how suddenly and decisively Anna has fallen, from being a calm and exemplary wife to being a mewling, desperate and unhappy mistress. Is such a drastic change even realistic? Maybe such things do happen in real life — perhaps Vronsky truly was that charming — but that’s no excuse to make them happen in fiction, lol)

A foreign prince visits Russia:

In Turkey he had been in a harem, in India he had ridden an elephant, and now in Russia he wished to sample all the special Russian pleasures.

Vronsky, who was with him as a kind of master of ceremonies, took great pains to apportion all the Russian pleasures offered the prince by various individuals. There were trotters, bliny, bear hunts, troikas, Gypsies, and drinking bouts with Russian plate smashing. The prince assimilated the Russian spirit with extraordinary ease, smashed trays of plates, sat a Gypsy woman on his knee, and seemed to ask, Isn’t there something else, or does the Russian spirit consist merely of this?

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

 

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